Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bobby Kennedy

I started reading a new book called The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America. You might wonder what in the world would lead me to pick up such a book, so I'll tell you. A couple of years ago, I read an excerpt from this book in an issue of Vanity Fair, the very first issue I had ever picked up. It was so powerfully written that I kept that issue of the magazine with Bobby Kennedy's photo on the cover, made a mental note to some day read the whole book, and began grabbing a copy of the most current Vanity Fair whenever I got the chance. After reading two books lately that were both about young thirty-somethings who needed to "find themselves" as their marriages were falling apart (no more memoirs for me for a while, thanks), I wanted to read something with some real substance. Then I remembered the book about Bobby Kennedy. I'm only about sixty pages in, but I there's a passage from one of his speeches that I just really wanted to share. For those of you who don't know anything about JFK's younger brother Bobby (I didn't either before reading this book), he decided to run for president in 1968 because he felt morally obligated to do whatever he could to oppose Lyndon B. Johnson and his involvement in Vietnam. JFK had been assassinated in 1963 and when Bobby decided to run, people (especially young people) loved him. But many of his colleagues and family members worried greatly that someone was going to shoot him. They were right. 82 days into his campaign, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also assassinated that year. And a lot of people still believe that had Bobby become president that year, America (and particularly it's political climate) would be very different today. So, here's a piece of Bobby's speech from the early days of the campaign: '"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things," he said. "Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but the GNP - if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead...and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."' Bobby Kennedy, 1968.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Thing About AutoTune

Lately I've had several conversations with friends that go like this:
Me: "Man, I wish they weren't using so much autotune."
Friend: "What's autotune?"

Autotuning is what make T-Pain sounds like T-Pain. If you don't know who T-Pain is, wake up to some pop culture and look him up. But T-Pain intentionally overuses autotuning to create a particular style/effect. Everyone knows he doesn't really sound like that. But what's happening lately is that music industry people are using it left and right to make their singers sound perfectly in tune. Key word here is "perfectly." What we're left with is music that sounds digital and overproduced. The music is sterile. I've attached an example for all you learn-by-hearing people. The first video is of Barbara Streisand singing "Don't Rain on my Parade" in the 1968 film, Funny Girl. The second video is of Lea Michele from the cast of Glee singing the same song. Listen.

Do you hear it? The Glee version sounds computer-y, doesn't it? If you don't hear it, do some more listening of other music and keep your ears tuned. You could listen to Michael Buble's first album...and then listen to his most recent album. Major autotuning happening on the newer one. The thing that really gets me is that people like the Glee cast members and Michael Buble don't need to be autotuned. They're good singers already, so the autotuning makes them sound even more perfect, which makes them sound even more computer-y.

So, the thing about autotuning is that it's a good example of what's happening in the world of the arts in general today. Because of our access to incredible digital technologies, there has become a demand for perfection in everything from show tunes to graphic design. People want flawless music, flawless photographs, movies, design, and on and on. Luckily, though, there's a culture of artists who recognize what's happening and are creating a pretty strong backlash. Designers are hand-drawing their stuff, musicians are recording analog and releasing their albums on vinyl, photographers are shooting film (and no, I can't photoshop your eyes open). And, it seems like all this is part of a bigger cultural people are longing for more authenticity in every aspect of their lives. We need that rawness in art...that's what helps us distinguish the good art from the bad. And it's what makes that emotional connection to the music or art or whatever. I mean, imagine a voice like Louis Armstrong's on autotune. No, thanks. Keep your ears peeled, people. Autotuning is gross and we need to say so.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Number Two

Another peek...

The inspiration for this one (from the June issue of Vanity Fair):

Okay, no more until I get the film back. Although I took a few digital shots, I mostly used professional black and white 400 Tri-X 120 film for these and shot them on my Mamiya 645. Let's hope they turn out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Project Sneak Peek

I've been inspired lately by two things: Vanity Fair and Lady Gaga. Lou's been helping me achieve my weird vision by modeling interesting "hats" and helping me create them. Here's a sneak peek. Enjoy!